With the benefit of hindsight (having completed
the historical recap in the second part of this series), today we come
to the penultimate part of our series "the Success Story of the
Unsuccessful Prophets", focusing therein on two sub-titles...
Of the era of Ezra, Haggai and Nehemiah, the Biblical scholars would tell us that the hearts of God's chosen lot, were "softened" and made into "pliable clay" by the retribution of exile, as such they were more receptive to God's instruction (after the Exile) than that of their hard-hearted fathers. Let me state affirmatively here that it is not Haggai's or Nehemiah's fault that they did not face the wrath of their own people in the way their predecessors did before the Exile. It also follows that their (Haggai or Nehemiah) rewards too wouldn't be diminished just because, their suffering did not equal that of their counterparts before the Exile dealing as they were with the softened people ready to submit themselves into the hands of the Divine potter.
Spare a thought to the diligent Prophets, who laboured for the Lord before the Exile, pleading with the people to repent? Forget listening to their clarion call and repenting, the hard-hearted Jews of that day wanted nothing to do with them. Situation turned from bad to worse for these representatives of God, when the emotional pain of social rejection (Amos 7:12) assumed the dark contours of physical hardships. Take the flogging and imprisonment of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:1-2) and then throw in cruel execution of other faithful prophets such as Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the High priest (2 Chronicles 24:21-22) and Uriah, son of Shemiah (Jeremiah 26:20-23) and the grim picture of all pain and no gain of these prophets would slowly but surely emerge with no shades of grey. Oh yes, prophets like Jeremiah or Amos, may be a popular subjects of study amongst the Bible students of our age but what were their popularity ratings in the Jewish society of their age? Were they at least looked upon as Prophets- Representatives of the Almighty God? NO! Far from being viewed as men holding a holy office, they were actually looked down upon as "unholy traitors of their nation" (Jeremiah 38:4/Amos 7:10). In essence, they were the very definition of the word "the least" our Lord was talking about in the afore-referred scripture portion.
While on the subject, I want to present yet another important dimension of their ministry, which made their popularity graph dip further...alarmingly. As Prophets, not only were they foretelling the dark future of the hard-hearted people prone to receive just Divine comeuppance, but they also assumed the role of forthtellers of God's word. Not for them, any sugarcoating business! They boldly portended all of God's warnings of "gloom and doom" to the disobedient people without mincing any words. Do we practice such honest forthtelling in the pulpits nowadays, even if it means risking empty pews?
Prayer: Father, enable us to serve by keeping our eyes focused on Thee alone rather than worldly rewards or worldly applause. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
J and SM Ministries
(To access the entire "The Success Story of the Unsuccessful Prophets" mini-series, please click here.)